Composition Photo Workshop Book Review
Composition Photo Workshop is one of the few photography books devoted to composition. Composition, the art of placing elements within a frame, is extremely important as it gives more impact to images than any other aspect of photography. It is also the most difficult to teach since it is the basis of photography as an art.
This 249-page book published by Wiley is written by Blue Fier who has been a photographer for over 20 years and holds both a Master's of Art and a Master's of Fine-Arts from California universites. The book is part of the Photo Workshop series which gets its name from the suggested exercise at the end of each chapter.
This book digs deep into its subject, dividing it into fundamental pieces including the physiology of the eye, human perception and elements of design. It also features content aimed at various types of photography. While the level of details presented in Composition Photo Workshop is intended for people struggling with the artisitic side of photography, it may seem rather heavy and dry. For those who are truly curious about how the human eye and mind react to composition, this can be quite interesting.
This book is here to completely break down compositon into more understandable principles and decisions for the photographer. It works but, while doing so, it also removes the element of intuition and produces a very safe and predictable path to composing images. For beginners, this is a path to improvement, yet it has a predictable limit. As such, this one is not recommended before photographers who already compose reasonably well and rely on intuition to guide them.
Composition Photo Workshop is written in a serious tone and is rather verbose. Few details get omitted and plenty more than needed to understand composition are also covered. There images on nearly every pair of pages, sometimes two or three. Most are accompanied by the technical settingsAperture, Shutter-Speed, Sensitivity used to take the shop. The photos themselves are rather dull and uninspiring. While this makes concepts used very clear, it diminishes the impact of the art. After all, how many people feel they will learn from someone whose images are lesser than their own?
The book is made of 11 chapters. The first two deal with perception and design. Those go through concepts in isolation from photography and can be applied this way to any visual art. This is certainly the heaviest part of the book and it does explains things very completely. Topics covered here include the eye, perspective, points, lines, shapes and the frame.
The following two chapters deal with aperture and shutter-speed in terms of their impact on composition. The former as a constraint on depth of focus, also called Depth-Of-Field, and the latter as a slice of time. Included is coverage of metering and continuous drive shooting. These short chapters contain most of the technical side of photography covered in this book.
Chapters on Light, Color and Black&White follow. This is more about seeing the light and understanding it than arranging elements directly. Instead of knowledge is taught to allow a better understanding of how composition is perceived.
Composition Photo Workshop continues with a few chapters about Portraits, Travel and Still-Life & Macro photography. Each of these chapters is written with a more practical approach than previous ones. With the exception of the travel section, the book explains how to build shots and setup its subject from the ground up. There are quite a few simple and practical rules here which is where beginners reading this book will get the most benefit.
The final chapter, called Improving Your Images, is about post-processing. Little is this chapter outside of cropping has to do with composition but modern books like to include a part on image manipulation at least to show that were written in the digital era!
Overall, this book was found to be too dense for typical readers while not having much benefit for advanced photographers. This places it in a position where it is difficult to recommend but for a particular audience which has been struggling to improve their photography using composition without success. Still, Michael Freemans's a Photographer's Eye is a much better read on the subject of composition.
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